Abigail Reynolds’s “The Universal Now and further episodes”
              Tom Jeffreys
              “Many artists consider books and libraries to be oppressive hierarchies of knowledge, dogmatic and hectoring,” writes artist Abigail Reynolds in her new book Lost Libraries. But Reynolds does not agree: “I consider them the gates of freedom.” Three simultaneous exhibitions in east London exemplify this fascination with books and their material relationship to time and knowledge: a display of artist books at bookartbookshop, an artists’ bookshop; a retrospective including collaged book pages at PEER gallery; and a new film work, Lost Libraries (2018), showing on two television screens among the books and computers of Shoreditch Library. Both book and film versions of Lost Libraries are the result of a journey undertaken by Reynolds between 2016 and 2017. Given financial and logistical support as the third recipient of the BMW Art Journey, a project by BMW and Art Basel that commissions artists to visit foreign locations and create new work, Reynolds travelled by plane and motorbike along the Silk Road from Xi’an, China, to Rome, Italy, visiting the sites of 15 libraries lost or destroyed over the past 2000 years. In Nishapur, Iran, she went to an empty field where a library once stood. In a museum in Xi’an, the characters of …

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